High School Reunion

Herewith a happy report on my high school class reunion. I talked to all the people I had hoped to see—Gina, Mary, Pami, Karen, Kathy, and Bobby, Doug, Bruce, and Rick. Al is long gone, and Greg is a different kind of stiff, so they weren’t part of my calculations.

I also talked to people I never expected to see—Dave, Tom, Mike, Rich, Bob, Frank. I drank too much beer and then switched to white wine to calm my nervous system. I demanded that the authorities turn the music off because nobody could hear a fucking thing, and I chased down a waitress from the OTB room so we could order some food for our table. By the end of the evening I was ready to drive everybody home, just like old times. Back then I was the designated driver because I hid inebriation better than anybody else, even from the cops. Also, I had access to my mother’s 1965 Corvair convertible, a very cool car, and Ralph Nader can kiss my ass.

Now this is the class of 1967. We’re all still high on the Summer of Love and Sgt. Pepper: 1968 didn’t come as a surprise to us. I remember Doug waking me in August of that year to reclaim something I had borrowed so he could sell it and pay for food and drugs in Grant Park. Or was it for someone’s bail? It was a long time ago.

If pressed, I’d say the salient fact about my cohort is its fierce individualism—its “entrepreneurial” drive. Almost every one of us tried to become the father of himself or herself. Why? Because unlike today, anything seemed possible in 1967? I don’t know, and I’m the historian here. But consider these examples. Doug ran a landscaping business, Al was a mason contractor, Greg owned two businesses, Bruce is a commercial photographer, Kathy owns and runs a bar, Bobby’s been making and losing fortunes on algorithmic bets since 1980, Dave the lawyer defends unions, Jim the lawyer defends anybody, Rich the professor teaches music production (!), Gina is an animal rights activist, Tom has made a living for 40 years by throwing pots . . .

I expected the worst—nothing—and I got life stories that make mine seem a mere accident or an improbable event, which, now that I say it, is probably the truth. We all made decisions. But my classmates were more decisive than I ever was. That is somehow heartening to me. They were determined. I was lucky. I’m glad to have grown up with them.

Overture

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m your fucking classmate, remember, I graduated when you did.”

“Yeah, but you live in New York.”

“I came from Iowa.”

“I thought you grew up here.”

“I did, in Lombard, like you, no, I was—“

“What does Iowa have to do with it?”

“I was out there on business, so I thought I’d stop in, you know, like a layover.”

“Business? You’re a professor, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.

“What do you teach?”

“Uh, history. Intellectual history, mostly.”

“I love history.”

“That’s funny, I kind of hate it.”

Act I

“How many words you got in your head?”

“I dunno, is there a limit?”

“I read your blog, and the Facebook thing you do, and I like what you write, but you’re crazy as a hoot owl.”

“Well, if you like what I write, I can’t be that crazy, right?”

“Sure you can, it’s, like, science fiction, you know?”

“But I’m talking about the real world.”

“No, it’s your world, you live in New York, you see what I mean?”

“It’s not the future, it’s just a fucking city.”

“No, man, it’s another planet. I love New York, don’t get me wrong.”

“Oh.”

Act II

“This guy wants to talk to you, he says you were his hero. “

“That’s a good reason not to talk to him, don’t you think?”

“It’s about football.”

“I was never that good. Don Cummings, Jim Wallace, Bobby K, they were good.”

“You were his hero. He graduated in 1968. He remembers the scrimmages, you know, the practices, where we kicked their ass.”

“Mike, I gotta say, I don’t remember it that way.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I remember practices as, I don’t know, drudgery?  Like work, punching a clock, do this, do that. You couldn’t get excited, because then you’d fuck up the plan.”

“Well, he’s excited.”

“Oh.”

Act III

“What do you do with the water you force out of the shale?”

“Fuck if I know.”

“We got a way to do it.”

“Fracking made green?”

“Yes.”

“C’mon, man, who are you selling this to, it’s not me.”

“We sell it to the oil companies, the guys who are doing the fracking.”

“Why would they buy it?”

“Because now the water is potable, it’s not just waste. They can sell it.”

“Oh.”

 

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